Follow the money to the 'big fish'

Follow the money to the 'big fish'

Gordon Harrison wants financial investigation of people suspected of human trafficking

Thursday, December 03, 2020

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Jamaica's National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Diahann Gordon Harrison is urging investigators to target the “big fish” or crime boss as part of efforts to deal with human trafficking in the island.

This is one of several recommendations from Gordon Harrison in the annual report from her office, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

In the report, which covers the period April 2018-March 2020 and is titled Human Trafficking in Jamaica: A Clear and Present Danger, Gordon Harrison pointed to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and noted that this legislation has as its objective, taking profit out of crime.

“This statute, through its provisions, allows for financial investigations to be conducted and financial profiles to be created of persons who are suspected to be securing financial gain from crime.

“Further, POCA permits, inter alia, banks to comply with judicial orders wherein suspected persons' financial records are shared with investigators; freezing orders can be made; forfeiture and confiscation proceedings can be instituted against such persons with a view to removing the benefit obtained from their illegal activity — this includes targeting property thought to be obtained with illicit funds [dirty money],” noted Gordon Harrison.

She argued that, in light of the possibilities under POCA and the known financial benefit that human traffickers can obtain from this form of organised crime, once a human trafficking investigation is being undertaken, there should be an accompanying financial investigation.

“If this real-time and proactive approach is routinely taken, it has the potential of having a human trafficker being 'hit in the pocket' for his/her illicit activities and feeling the consequences in a very impactful manner.

“Of importance is that this financial accountability can occur whether there is a criminal conviction or not; it applies to civil asset recovery proceedings and can serve as a dissuasive tool for actual and potential human traffickers,” argued Gordon Harrison.

The national rapporteur noted that so significant is the link between ill-gotten profit and human trafficking that, in some countries, banks have explored the creation of an alliance which profiles individuals and seeks to forfeit sums if they are suspected to be coming from human trafficking.

“Though the traffickers identified in Jamaica may not appear to have the resources that would require a financial investigation, they may be connected to a wider criminal structure which is motivated to continue with its criminal undertakings because of how lucrative the business is.

“Another incentive to continue that the more senior and well-resourced human traffickers may have is the assurance that if a foot soldier, who is very low within their criminal network, is caught he alone will face the criminal consequences of most likely incarceration or a fine, and the true profit that is generated in the ownership of assets and large sums of money will remain untouched,” said Gordon Harrison, who also recommended an increase in the number of prosecutors to deal with human trafficking cases, an increased focus on male victims, and more priority on children, among a slew of other recommendations.

The report from the national rapporteur on trafficking in persons came hours after the United States Department of State released its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, in which it said Jamaica “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so”.

The report also said the Jamaican Government has demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Jamaica remained on Tier 2, which is the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards to deal with human trafficking, but which are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

According to the US State Department report, Jamaican officials investigated 41 potential sex trafficking cases and two labour trafficking cases, compared with 36 cases of sex and labour trafficking investigated in the previous reporting period, and 30 cases the year before that.

During the reporting period, the Jamaican Government initiated five new prosecutions for sex trafficking and two new prosecutions for labour trafficking, and reported that 21 total prosecutions are currently in process.

One trafficker was convicted in connection with a 2015 child sex trafficking case and sentenced to five years in prison for human trafficking and three years for having sex with a minor, running concurrently. The trafficker also was required to pay restitution to the victim in the form of vocational training fees.

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